Illinois Holocaust Museum Launches First-of-its-Kind Online Experience on History of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union

Skokie, IL, Sept. 28, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Launched in the lead-up to the 81st anniversary of the Babiy Yar massacre, Illinois Holocaust Museum has created a new online experience sharing the little-known history of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union as told through the stories of Chicago-area survivors and their families. This new site includes an online exhibition; a research page with access to the Museum’s full photo and object collection connected to the Holocaust in the Soviet Union; a stories page developed in partnership with Holocaust Community Services highlighting individual stories of Chicago-area survivors and rescuers; and a page dedicated to secondary classroom educator and student activities.

“The history of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union has largely been ignored and forgotten, and in some cases, purposefully erased,” says Leah Rauch, Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Director of Education. “But more than 2.5 million of the Holocaust’s victims were Soviet Jews. The time is long overdue to address what happened in the German-occupied Soviet Territories in our classrooms and online.”

Included in this extensive history of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union are the key moments leading up to Operation Barbarossa and the Babiy Yar massacre. One of the largest military invasions in modern history, Operation Barbarossa began on June 22, 1941, and set the stage for the mass murder of Jews in the Soviet Union. Just a few short months after the invasion, over 33,000 Jewish men, women, and children were murdered at Babiy Yar, a ravine near German-occupied Kyiv, Ukraine on September 29-30, 1941. It was the largest single mass grave on Soviet territory. Earlier this year, the Babiy Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv, Ukraine was bombed by Russian forces.

Additionally, the Museum will share the story of Soviet Jewry after the Holocaust, the “Refuseniks” who often faced harsh treatment for trying to emigrate, and the activism and international support that led to an easing of emigration restrictions beginning in 1988. Of the living Holocaust Survivors in the Chicago area, 90% are from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), and Chicago played an instrumental role in the fight for the Refuseniks and their resettlement, making it critical for the Museum to highlight and share these stories.  

The virtual exhibition allows Illinois Holocaust Museum to reach an even broader audience, bringing these stories to life through interactive elements such as maps, photographs, and artifacts. Viewers will be able to examine a range of objects including:

  • A miniature Hebrew bible, printed in Warsaw in the late 19th century, that was found by a Soviet Jewish officer in the liberation of a Polish concentration camp in 1945.
  • Excerpts from Irving Leavitt’s diary entries detailing the German invasion of his hometown in Poland and the day-by-day destruction of the Jewish community.
  • A letter from June 1944 written by local Survivor Mikhail Mirkin, a Jewish Soviet Red Army soldier, who was inquiring about the fate of his parents in Chereya, German-occupied Belarus.

Educators can utilize the exhibition’s unique resources for their students, including lessons covering the full breadth of Nazi atrocities, how the Holocaust reached beyond Europe’s borders, and injustices against the Jewish community in the Soviet Union after the war. Students can explore and learn through eight engaging activities that each address an essential question about the Holocaust.

The Holocaust in the Soviet Union Online Exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Tanya and Michael Polsky, Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and Julie Bashkin and Matt Brody.

More information about the exhibition and Illinois Holocaust Museum can be found here. A media kit for the exhibit can be found here.



About Illinois Holocaust Museum
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center honors the Survivors and victims of the Holocaust and transforms history into current, relevant, and universal lessons in humanity. Through world-class exhibitions and programs, the Museum inspires individuals and organizations and provides a universal wake-up call to action: Take history to heart. Take a stand for humanity. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit or call 847-967-4800.


HSU website banner

Contact Data